Italian Nobel-winning playwright and master satirist Dario Fo dies

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Nobel prize-winning Italian playwright, director and political activist Dario Fo, an acclaimed satirist who poked a finger in the eye of the church and state, has died aged 90, officials said on Thursday.

Famous for his cutting political satire in plays such as ‘The Accidental Death of an Anarchist’, Fo won the Nobel prize for literature in 1997.

He remained a committed activist right to the end, skewering Italian authorities with his sharp wit and appearing at a rally in support of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement last month. He was admitted to hospital in Milan 12 days ago.

“With Dario Fo, Italy loses one of the great protagonists of theater, culture and the civic life of our country,” said Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who was himself regularly ridiculed by the irreverent Fo.

“His satire, his research, his work on set design, his multi-faceted artistic activity remain the legacy of a great Italian in the world.”

Fo and his wife, muse and leading lady Franca Rame, captured the hearts and minds of ordinary Italians, writing and performing for stage, radio and television and regularly skewering political leaders with deft, clever dialogue.

His subversive humor won him a cult status, but also saw him periodically hounded off the stage and television in an attempt by the Italian establishment to muzzle him. He was barred from entering the United States in the early 1980s.

“The Accidental Death of an Anarchist”, which brought him international fame, was based on the true story of a railway worker who fell to his death from the fourth floor of a Milan police station where he was being interrogated.

Police said he committed suicide, while Fo suggested he was killed. The play was first performed in Milan in 1970 and has since been performed in more than 40 countries.

Awarding him its literature prize, the Nobel Foundation said Fo “emulates the jesters of the Middle Ages in scourging authority and upholding the dignity of the downtrodden”.

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